UK & World News

  • 20 May 2014, 0:40

Mysteries Of Mummies Unlocked By CT Scanners

Whether it is down to Hollywood blockbusters or Scooby Doo, our fascination with Egyptian mummies has lasted for more than 200 years.

Now the latest generation of CT scanners - normally used to check living patients - have been used by the British Museum, in London, to shed new light on one of its most popular collections.

The findings show we share rather more with the ancient Egyptians than you might expect, including high cholesterol levels and agonising toothache.

Eight of the museum's mummies have been virtually unwrapped - revealing secrets they took to the grave thousands of years ago.

Each long-dead individual was painstakingly transported to hospitals across the capital and placed - out of hours and late at night - inside the latest generation of CT scanners.

The unprecedented levels of resolution have shown some unexpected developments.

They include the revelation that one of the mummies, found in a woman's coffin and believed for hundreds of years to be female, was in fact a man.

The first mummy entered the museum's collection in 1756, but for the past 200 years none of the mummies have been unwrapped because of the damage that would be done.

Now, cutting-edge visualisation techniques mean not only curators, but every visitor to the exhibition can peel away the wrappings and virtually explore what lies beneath.

All of the mummies chosen once lived in the Nile Valley, between 3,500BC and 700AD. The exhibition reveals more about how they lived and died and shows the embalming process did not always go to plan - particularly for one man from Thebes.

Curator Daniel Antoine told Sky News: "Facial visualisation reveals a tool still stuck in his head.

"There had been an attempt to remove his brain but during it one of the tools used to go through the nose appears to have snapped and surprisingly that tool is still lodged inside him."

Like all of the adult mummies, the same man was found to have advanced dental decay - with four separate abscesses in his mouth. Another two individuals still have calcified plaque on their bones, suggesting they may have suffered from cardiovascular disease.

Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, said: "This new technology is truly groundbreaking, allowing us to reconstruct and understand the lives of these eight very different individuals.

"This is a project which has only been made possible through recent technological advances."

The exhibition, which is free for under-16s, is called Ancient Lives New Discoveries and opens on Thursday.

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